Have you ever had a story or scene to write but struggled with finding a way into it?
I have a friend who’s known for the stories she tells. She’s a keen observer of people and life and has a way of making scenes come alive. By observing her oral storytelling technique, I’ve learned how to find my way into writing scenes and stories.
Storytelling has been used since the beginning of time as a way to process life. Before paper or printing presses existed, stories were told verbally. My friend instinctively adopts the techniques of natural storytelling by creating foreshadowing, suspense, strong images, and closure. When she tells a story, I can tell she feeds off her audience, whether it’s one or several, for cues that her story resonates.
If you’re struggling with how to get into a scene or story, you might try telling it to a friend or two.
While some people say you don’t want to “talk your story out” for fear of losing the energy of it, you might find it could actually be a useful tool if you do it with purpose. Read more
Whether you’re driven to writing with ideas exploding inside of you like Ray Bradbury or you take an hour later in the day to go over your morning pages like Joan Didion or you write in the middle of the living room with all kinds of white noise around you like E.B. White, you most likely have a writing routine or writing rituals you practice to make sure you get your words on paper.
Or, maybe, like Benjamin Franklin, you start each morning by asking yourself a question, “What good shall I do this day?” And you end each evening with another question, “What good have I done today?” Read more
Since today is Friday the 13th, I’ve been thinking about superstitions in general and writing in particular. The writers below share their insights about writers’ superstitions and rituals.
In this post at the Nouveau Writer, Mariana Ashley reveals The Top Five Writing Superstitions of the Greats.
Cat Woods (@catewoods) conducted an unofficial poll of 45 writers and found that 37 of them had writing quirks or superstitions. She lists some of them in this post at From the Write Angle.
At the Indextrious Reader blog, you’ll find a post by Canadian blogger Melwyk that includes a poem about superstitions and a cat.
What are your writing superstitions?
Spring is here! I can tell because in the Pacific North Wet we’ve been getting our last burst of winter weather—at least twice in the last few weeks we’ve had snow flurries, a deluge of rain, and sunny blue skies—all in the same day.
March is a liminal time of year and one of my favorite months. To me, it represents the threshold of change. Out with the old. In with the new. I look forward to spring cleaning—not just the house but all areas of my life.
I like having touchstones—the new year, the first day of spring, the summer solstice. They remind me to stop and examine where I am and where I want to go. If we don’t set our own goals and dream our own visions, then we end up fulfilling somebody else’s: our boss, parents, spouse, teacher, and others. Read more
Sometimes, getting into my writing groove is about as easy as slipping on my favorite pair of jeans from my freshman year in college. In other words, it’s impossible.
I have various tricks for when my muse needs to be conned into action: wearing headphones to help myself focus, doing a five minute timed write to warm up my writing muscles, or giving myself a reward when I reach my word quota for the day—maybe a small piece of chocolate (hmm…is this why I can’t fit into those jeans?).
Sometimes, I write to music to help myself stay focused. For my current project, I’m creating a playlist that so far includes Moonlight Sonata, Adagio for Violin, Bach, and Lorenna McKennitt. While writing my memoir, I listened mainly to Norah Jones and Brandi Carlile. Different books inspire different music and vice versa.
But sometimes other sounds can help me write too. Read more
I love it when I find another writer who has a ritual or a way of thinking about writing that I share. It’s one more way of feeling connected to a community. This week, I had one of those moments when I read an interview with writer John Reimringer.
In The Aroostook Review, the online literary journal at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, Reimringer speaks about the practice of writing, how he got into it, and his routines and rituals. One especially struck me because it’s a ritual I’ve done in the past with working out and one I now do with my writing practice.
I give myself a star for each day I write.
I like to use a calendar that shows a month and has big enough squares for the stars. Something about seeing those stars pushes me forward. I like to look back and see my writing history at a glance. If you post your calendar in a place where you work, it can even become a conversation starter. I’ve influenced more than one person to start marking their writing progress with stars. (It’s actually a good way to mark any progress toward a goal, not just writing.)
Reimringer and his wife, poet Katrina Vandenberg, do something similar. Read more
My husband and I were strolling along our city’s boardwalk this weekend when a bald eagle swooped overhead and landed on the mudflats to fish. We stopped to admire him—so silent and still as he hunted bullheads in a nearby stream. Soon, a small black bird, maybe a young crow or raven, began dive-bombing the eagle—a constant back and forth motion that reminded me of a giant pendulum.
Neither bird gave up. The black bird continued its assault. The eagle ignored the little bird and stared fixedly into the stream. We were amazed at their determination.
As a writer, this is what I’m always looking for—that single-point focus. My world has too many distractions—e-mail, phones, social media, business, housework. I find it too easy to get off track, and far too difficult to find my way back. Read more